Zoe Saldaña

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Zoe Saldaña
Zoe Saldana by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Saldaña at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con
Zoe Yadira Saldaña Nazario[nt 1]

(1978-06-19) June 19, 1978 (age 43)
Years active1999–present
Marco Perego-Saldaña
(m. 2013)

Zoe Yadira Saldaña-Perego (née Saldaña Nazario; born June 19, 1978) is an American actress. After performing with the theater group Faces she appeared in two 1999 episodes of Law & Order. Her film career began a year later with Center Stage (2000) in which she portrayed a ballet dancer.

After receiving early recognition for her work opposite Britney Spears in the road film Crossroads (2001), Saldaña achieved her career breakthrough with her work in numerous science fiction films, beginning in 2009 with her first of multiple appearances as Nyota Uhura in the Star Trek film series and her first appearance as Neytiri in the Avatar film series. She portrays Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).[1] Saldaña appeared in three of the five highest-grossing films of all time (Avatar, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame), a feat not achieved by any other actor.[2] Her films grossed more than $11 billion worldwide,[3] and she is the second-highest-grossing film actress of all time as of 2019.[4]

Early life[edit]

Saldaña was born on June 19, 1978, in Passaic, New Jersey.[5][6][7] The majority of her early childhood was spent in Jackson Heights, New York. She was raised bilingual, speaking English and Spanish. She has two sisters, Cisely and Mariel.[8] Their father died in a vehicle wreck around her ninth birthday, and their mother moved with the children to the Dominican Republic.[8] With regard to her racial identity, Saldaña stated, "There's no one way to be black. I'm black the way I know how to be."[9] While she was raised by her stepfather Dagoberto Galan, her biological father Aridio Saldaña[10] was Dominican,[11][12] while her mother Asalia Nazario is Puerto Rican. In an interview with Wired, she stated that she is 3/4 Dominican and 1/4 Puerto Rican.[13][14][15]

Saldaña discovered her love of dance in the Dominican Republic, then enrolled in the ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy studying forms of dance,[6][8][16][17] but describes ballet as her passion.[8][18] She told Vanity Fair she quit ballet because she did not "have the feet" and had too much pride and ambition to just be in the corps de ballet.[18] The family returned to New York City after her sophomore year at Newtown High School.[18][19] In 1995, she performed with the Faces theater group in Brooklyn,[20] with plays providing positive messages for teens via themes dealing with issues such as substance abuse and adolescent sex. During these years, she performed with the New York Youth Theater; her appearance in their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat led a talent agency to recruit her. Her dance training and her acting experience helped her land her first film role, playing ballet student Eva Rodriguez in Center Stage (2000).[6][16]



Saldaña at Hollywood Life Magazine's Annual Breakthrough Awards in 2007

Saldaña was a member of Faces after her exposure in an episode of Law & Order (titled "Refuge, Part 2") in 1999.[21] Saldaña's first film role was in Center Stage (2000), directed by Nicholas Hytner, about dancers at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York city. She appeared in the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads (2002). The film earned negative reviews from critics, but was a box-office success.[22][23] Saldaña starred in the comedy-drama Drumline (2002), alongside Nick Cannon, earning mixed reviews.[24][25]

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), she played Anamaria, a pirate joining Will Turner and Mr. Gibbs for a chance to confront Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship. She appeared in The Terminal as Dolores Torres, an immigration officer and Star Trek fan, a role helping Saldaña during her portrayal in the Star Trek reboot (2009).[26] In 2004, she had roles in Haven and Temptation; both earned little-to-no box-office success.

In 2005, Saldaña appeared in Constellation, Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher, and Dirty Deeds. She starred in the romantic comedy-dramas Premium (2006) and After Sex (2007).[27] Saldaña starred in Blackout, a television film set in New York city during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. The film premiered at the 2007 Zurich Film Festival[28] and debuted on BET in 2008.[29] Saldaña had a supporting role as Angie Jones in the action thriller Vantage Point (2008).[30]

Breakthrough roles, Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy[edit]

Saldaña at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010

Saldaña appeared in two roles in 2009, raising her profile considerably.[16] She played Nyota Uhura in Star Trek.[31] The film's director J. J. Abrams asked Saldaña to play the role because he enjoyed her work. Saldaña never saw the original series, although she portrayed a Trekkie in The Terminal (2004), but agreed to play the role after Abrams complimented her. She met with Nichelle Nichols to understand the creation of Uhura's background and name of the character.[32] Saldaña's mother was a Star Trek fan, leaving voice-mails during filming, advising on the role.[33] Steven Spielberg taught her the Vulcan salute five years earlier while he directed her in The Terminal.[26] Star Trek (2009) was a box-office success earning $385.7 million.[34]

Saldaña's second high-profile film in 2009 was James Cameron's Avatar portraying the indigenous hunter Neytiri. Avatar was well received by critics, accumulating an approval rating of 83% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[35] It grossed $2.7 billion worldwide to become the highest-grossing film of all time,[36] as well as in the United States and Canada. It also became the first film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide.[37] The film was nominated for ten Saturn Awards, and won all ten at the 36th Saturn Awards ceremony. Saldaña's Saturn Award for Best Actress win marked a rare occurrence for an all-CG character.[38]

In 2010, Saldaña performed in The Losers as Aisha al-Fadhil, a native Bolivian woman. For the role, she was required to gain weight to carry weapons for eight hours a day.[39] In 2010, she appeared in Takers, Death at a Funeral, and Burning Palms. Her television ad for Calvin Klein's "Envy" line debuted in 2010.[40] In 2011, Saldaña starred in the romantic comedy The Heart Specialist, and portrayed assassin Cataleya Restrepo in the crime drama Colombiana. Although the latter film earned negative reviews from critics, Saldaña's performance was praised.[41]

In 2012, she appeared in the romantic drama The Words, earning negative reviews from critics with little success at the box-office.[42][43]

In 2013, Saldaña reprised her role as Uhura in Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the Star Trek re-boot. Like the previous film, it was a box-office success, ending its North American theatre run with a box office total of $228,778,661, placing it as the eleventh-highest-grossing film of 2013.[44] It earned $467,365,246 worldwide, ranking it in 14th place for 2013, and making it the highest-grossing film of the franchise.[45] Saldaña voiced her character in the 2013 release of the Star Trek video game.

In 2014, Saldaña played Gamora in the hit Guardians of the Galaxy.[46][47] Saldaña portrayed the Gamora character with make-up rather than computer generated imagery (CGI) or performance capture.[48] The film became the third-highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, behind The Avengers and Iron Man 3.[49] It was the third-highest-grossing 2014 film (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), and the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014.[49][50]

The film earned positive reviews. Saldaña was nominated for numerous awards including Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress in an Action Movie, Favorite Action Movie Actress at the People's Choice Awards, and Best On-Screen Transformation at the MTV Movie Awards.[51][52]

In May 2014, she performed in Rosemary's Baby, a television adaptation of Ira Levin's horror novel. Saldaña also co-produced the four-hour two-part show.[53] In 2014, Saldaña was recognized by Elle magazine during The Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for achievements in film, spanning all aspects of the motion-picture industry, including acting, directing, and producing.[54]


Saldaña starred in Nina, an unauthorized biography about the jazz musician Nina Simone released in 2016. The film depicts the late singer's rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. Simone's family were critical of the decision to cast her in the role.[55] In August 2020, Saldaña apologized for taking on the role, saying “I'm so sorry. I know better today and I'm never going to do that again. She's one of our giants and someone else should step up. Somebody else should tell her story.” [56] In 2016, she co-starred in the science-fiction sequel Star Trek Beyond released in July, and Ben Affleck's crime drama Live by Night released in December.[57]

Saldaña returned as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released in May 2017.[58] She reprised the role in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and its sequel Avengers: Endgame released in April 2019.

Also in 2017, Saldaña played Mrs. Mollé in I Kill Giants, Anders Walter's adaptation of Joe Kelly's graphic novel I Kill Giants. Shooting commenced in Ireland in September 2016.[59] Also that year, she appeared in My Little Pony: The Movie performing the voice of pirate parrot Captain Celaeno.

On May 3, 2018, she received a star at 6920 Hollywood Boulevard in the Motion Pictures section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[60]

In 2021, Saldaña starred in two roles made by Netflix, appearing as Rosita in the film musical Vivo and stars as the titular character in Maya and the Three. She will join an all-star cast in David O. Russell's Canterbury Glass.[61]

She will reprise her role as Neytiri in the sequels Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3, scheduled for 2022 and 2024 respectively.[62]

Personal life[edit]

Saldaña at the 2014 Alma Awards while pregnant

In June 2010, Saldaña was engaged to her longtime boyfriend Keith Britton, an actor and the CEO of My Fashion Database.[63] In November 2011, she and Britton announced they had ended their relationship after eleven years.[64]

Saldaña was in a relationship with actor Bradley Cooper from December 2011 to January 2013.[65]

In March 2013, Saldaña began dating Italian artist Marco Perego. They married in June 2013 in London.[66][67] In July 2015, Saldaña revealed Perego adopted her surname upon marriage.[68][69] Thereafter, Zoe became Zoe Saldaña-Perego and Marco became Marco Perego-Saldaña. Their children would be Perego-Saldaña.[70] Saldaña and Perego have three sons, twins born in November 2014[71] and the third born in February 2017.[72][73] Saldaña has stated her children will be multi-lingual because she and her husband speak Spanish, Italian and English around them.[74]

In July 2016, during an interview with Net-a-Porter's The Edit, Saldaña revealed she has Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, along with her mother and sisters. To combat the effects of this disease, Saldaña said she and her husband adhere to a gluten- and dairy-free diet.[75]

Saldaña is a supporter of FINCA International, a micro-finance organization.[76]

Saldaña is left-handed. In 2015, during International Left-Handers Day, she tweeted in support of the Left-Handers Movement.[77]

In 2017, Saldaña founded BESE, a digital media platform designed to "combat the lack of diversity in the mainstream media" with an interest on positive stories within the Latino community.[78] In September 2020, Saldaña used her social media presence to participate in the VoteRiders #IDCheck Challenge to help spread the word about voter ID requirements for the upcoming presidential election.[79]


Denotes productions that have not yet been released Denotes productions that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Center Stage Eva Rodriguez
2001 Get Over It Maggie
Snipes Cheryl
2002 Crossroads Kit
Drumline Laila
2003 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Anamaria
2004 The Terminal Dolores Torres
Haven Andrea
Temptation Annie
2005 Constellation Rosa Boxer
Guess Who Theresa Jones
Dirty Deeds Rachel Buff
The Curse of Father Cardona Flor
2006 Premium Charli
The Heart Specialist Donna
2007 After Sex Kat
Blackout Claudine
2008 Vantage Point Angie Jones
2009 Star Trek Nyota Uhura
The Skeptic Cassie
Avatar Neytiri
2010 The Losers Aisha
Takers Lily Jansen
Death at a Funeral Elaine
Burning Palms Sara Cotton
2011 Kaylien N/A Short film
Colombiana Cataleya Restrepo
2012 The Words Dora Jansen
2013 Blood Ties Vanessa
Star Trek Into Darkness Nyota Uhura
Out of the Furnace Lena Warren
2014 Unity Narrator Documentary
Infinitely Polar Bear Maggie Stuart
Guardians of the Galaxy Gamora
The Book of Life María Posada (voice)
2016 Nina Nina Simone
Star Trek Beyond Nyota Uhura
Live by Night Graciella Corrales
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Gamora
I Kill Giants Mrs. Mollé
My Little Pony: The Movie Captain Celaeno (voice)
2018 The Legend of Red Hand Mia Parc Short film
Avengers: Infinity War Gamora
2019 Missing Link Adelina Fortnight (voice)
Avengers: Endgame Gamora
2020 Vampires vs. the Bronx Becky Cameo
2021 Vivo Rosa (voice)
2022 The Adam Project Laura
Amsterdam dagger Post-production
Avatar: The Way of Water dagger Neytiri
2023 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 dagger Gamora
2024 Avatar 3 dagger Neytiri


Year Title Role Notes
1999 Law & Order Belinca 2 episodes
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Gabrielle Vega Episode: "Criminal"
2006–2007 Six Degrees Regina 5 episodes
2013 Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself Episode: "Zoe Saldaña Wears A Tan Blouse & Glasses"
2014 Rosemary's Baby Rosemary Woodhouse Miniseries; also producer
2020 Home Movie: The Princess Bride Princess Buttercup Episode: "Chapter Seven: The Pit Of Despair"
2021 Maya and the Three Princess Maya (voice) Miniseries
2022 The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special dagger Gamora Television Special; Post-production

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role Notes
2013 Star Trek Nyota Uhura Also likeness

Theme park attractions[edit]

Year Title Role Venue
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout! Gamora Disney California Adventure
2022 Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic rewind! Gamora Epcot

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
2003 MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss (with Nick Cannon) Drumline Nominated
2005 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Female Breakout Star Guess Who Nominated
2006 Black Reel Awards Best Actress Nominated
2009 ALMA Awards Actress in Film Star Trek Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Ensemble Cast Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Action Nominated
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Best Ensemble Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Breakout Movie Actress Nominated
Scream Awards Best Science Fiction Actress Nominated
Breakout Performance – Female Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
BET Awards Best Actress Nominated
Black Reel Awards Best Actress Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Empire Awards Best Actress Avatar Won
Kids' Choice Awards Cutest Couple (with Sam Worthington) Nominated
Favorite Movie Actress Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance Nominated
Best Kiss (with Sam Worthington) Nominated
Scream Awards Best Science Fiction Actress Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Actress Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi Won
Choice Movie Actress: Action The Losers Nominated
Choice Movie Actress: Comedy Death at a Funeral Nominated
2011 ALMA Awards Favorite Movie Actress – Drama/Adventure Takers Nominated
BET Awards Best Actress The Losers Nominated
Death at a Funeral Nominated
Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture The Losers Nominated
2012 BET Awards Best Actress Colombiana Nominated
Black Reel Awards Best Actress[80] Nominated
Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Action Won
ALMA Awards Favorite Movie Actress Drama/Adventure Won
2013 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie Star: Female Star Trek Into Darkness Nominated
Award Year Category Work Result Ref(s)
Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress Guardians of the Galaxy Nominated
Outstanding Voice Performance The Book of Life Nominated
Outstanding Television Movie or Limited Series (as a producer) Rosemary's Baby Nominated
Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Actress in an Action Movie Guardians of the Galaxy Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best On-Screen Transformation Nominated
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Butt-Kicker Star Trek Beyond Nominated
Favorite Movie Actress Avengers: Infinity War Nominated
Favorite Butt-Kicker Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Action Movie Actress Guardians of the Galaxy Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: AnTEENcipated Star Trek Beyond Nominated
Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Won
Choice MovieShip (shared with Chris Pratt) Nominated
Choice Liplock (shared with Chris Pratt) Avengers: Infinity War Nominated
Choice Actress: Action Nominated
Avengers: Endgame Nominated


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